Abolitionist and Women's Rights

The Hutchinson Family
The Hutchinson Family

Politicians gazed, astounded,
When, at first our bell resounded:
Freight trains are coming, tell these foxes,
With our votes and ballot boxes.

Roll it along! Roll it along!
Roll it along! Thro' the nation
Freedom's car, Emancipation

From "Get Off the Track" by the Hutchinson Family Singers

The Hutchinson Family Singers

Debuting in 1839, the Hutchinson Family Singers of New Hampshire were one of the best-known musical groups of the mid-1800s. Famous for their harmonies, the group made their mark with a mix of sentimental ballads and protest songs in the European American tradition. The subjects of their protest songs ranged from temperance to women's rights to abolitionism, winning fans and friends that included Frederick Douglass, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Abraham Lincoln. Although the name and composition of the group changed, the Hutchinson Family played in one form or another for nearly 40 years.

The Hutchinson Family Singers often set new words to popular music. This tradition of transforming revered patriotic tunes into protest songs was favored by early union organizers and continues to this day.

Julia Ward Howe

After hearing a song about abolitionist John Brown (who had been hanged in 1859 for leading an attempted slave insurrection), Julia Ward Howe penned new verses more appropriate to the Civil War effort. Her "Battle Hymn of the Republic," set to the music of "John Brown's Body," quickly became the anthem of Union forces.

Howe's "Suffrage Song" used the tune of the national anthem "America" to champion the women's suffrage movement.

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Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe

My country 'tis for thee
To make your women free
This is our plea
High have our hopes been raised
In these enlightened days
That for her justice, praised
Our land may be

From "Suffrage Song" by Julia Ward Howe

Read the lyrics to "John Brown's Body"

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